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On June 22, 2016, the Russian International Affairs Council hosted UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand (1999-2008), who is running for the post of UN Secretary-General. It was her only public appearance in Moscow.

On June 22, 2016, the Russian International Affairs Council hosted UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand (1999-2008), who is running for the post of UN Secretary-General. It was her only public appearance in Moscow. 

The event was opened by RIAC Vice President Vyacheslav Trubnikov and New Zealand Ambassador to Moscow Ian Hill.

Ms. Clark shared her views on the UN future, as well as key problems of international security and development, which gave rise to a free discussion with participation of RIAC members and experts, academic leaders and researchers from RAS institutes, universities and think tanks.

Finally, Ms. Clark answered questions of Russian journalists.

Helen Clark at RIAC

Helen Clark, New Zealand Candidate for United Nations Secretary General: Prepared remarks to the Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow, 22 June 2016

I am pleased to be back in Russia again. I was most recently here last June when I came to sign the Russia UNDP Trust Fund Agreement with Minister Lavrov. This strengthened UNDP’s relationship with Russia, following the signing of the Partnership Framework Agreement in January last year.

This time I have a very different purpose. I have come to Moscow as a candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations. To present myself and the qualities and experience I would bring to what is often described as “the world’s most impossible job”.

Thus, I come to share my thoughts on some ways in which the Organisation could be strengthened and updated to cope with the new challenges we now face. And most of all I come to learn from you and to hear your views on what most urgently needs to be done to make the United Nations a more effective force for stability in our troubled world.

I am honoured to be addressing such an impressive group of participants with expertise in so many spheres of foreign relations, security, development, conflict resolution, and international law. It will be valuable for me to hear your perspectives on the way the United Nations is perceived in Russia. I shall be particularly interested in the way you see the role of the Secretary-General.

To allow maximum time for a free and open exchange on these questions I shall keep my opening remarks short.

Motivation for the role

I am motivated to put myself forward as a candidate for Secretary-General because I sincerely believe in the United Nations as a force for good, and in the role of the Secretary-General as having convening power to bring countries together at times of tension and of conflict.

Like Russians and New Zealanders of my generation, I grew up in the shadow of two World Wars. The family stories and later my studies gave real meaning to the opening words of the UN Charter – “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.

During the Second World War, New Zealand and Russia were allies fighting a common foe. Several hundred New Zealand servicemen endured severe conditions and risks as part of the Arctic convoys to bring vital supplies to the Soviet Union at the height of the war. 

The ties that were forged during the Second World War, when New Zealand and Russia fought together as allies, laid a foundation of cooperation between our countries that endures to this day, deepened by our partnership in the Asia Pacific and now as members of the UN Security Council. 

I am proud that New Zealand was a founding member of the United Nations and has a long tradition of support for it.   It is therefore a very significant honour to be here in Moscow as New Zealand’s candidate for UN Secretary-General and the first candidate from my region.

What I would offer

I have stepped forward because there are very serious challenges facing the world. From terrorism to civil wars to global pandemics to climate change. And the tensions, rifts and inequalities are becoming greater.

People everywhere are looking to the United Nations to help them to solve trans-border problems, the so called “problems without passports”. There is no other genuinely multilateral organisation that can do this. And when the Security Council and Member States can work together we can make real progress. As on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last December, and the 2030 Agenda also agreed last year setting new sustainable development goals.

However, for the successes we can count, there are many other occasions when the United Nations falls short. Sometimes this is because we are making impossible demands, e.g. in sending peacekeeping forces into regions so beset by conflict that there is no peace to keep. Other times intentions are good, but supporting systems are old fashioned and inadequate.

If the next Secretary-General can’t lead in resolving these problems, there is a real risk that the UN will be more marginalised. Especially on some of the major questions of collective security. More than at any other time, the United Nations needs a pragmatic and effective leader.

It is in the interests of all Member States to elect the best person for the job – and I believe I am that person. Let me explain what I would offer.

My nine years as Prime Minister of New Zealand plus the last seven years leading UNDP means that I have the top level political skills to make the United Nation’s stronger and more relevant. I know many of today’s global leaders and they know me. I have an easy dialogue with them, and listen to and respect their views.

As a former Prime Minister and now UNDP Administrator, I can offer a unique combination of global profile and multilateral experience. I understand political processes and the political realities confronting leaders and foreign ministers from all regions of the world.

As I have been travelling to Security Council capitals, and talking to colleagues in New York, I have been seeking out views on what people see as the most essential qualities from the next Secretary-General. Often the answer is a fair leader who can be an honest broker and defend the Charter. A Secretary-General who is courageous and is able to withstand pressure.

I have spent the last thirty years supporting the UN on the international stage, backing the UN Charter even in very difficult situations such as the Iraq intervention, which New Zealand did not join. There was no Security Council mandate given to do so.

The “world’s most impossible job” also needs a person who has a deep understanding of international affairs. Someone who can interpret with sensitivity to Member States the “good offices” role of the Secretary-General as a convenor and a catalyst. I am confident that my experience both inside the UN system and as Prime Minister would be a solid foundation for this demanding role.

As Prime Minister for nine years at the head of a coalition government I took decisions on New Zealand’s role in combatting global terrorism and on deploying to Afghanistan for an extended period.

Many see an essential role of the United Nations Secretary General as being the UN’s Chief Administrative Officer. Here too I have proven experience in bringing a tighter management style to UNDP, enabling it to put more resources into development and less into administration. This drew on my New Zealand experience where significant public administrative reform has occurred over three decades.

My vision for the United Nations is for an organisation that is practical, flexible and effective, and can adapt to the challenges of today’s world. This is about improving systems and processes and about being a practical hands-on leader with the skills to manage an effective and diverse leadership team. The UN needs to be able to:

  • Produce results for the people who depend on it to meet their basic daily needs.
  • Provide a complementary role to countries and regions in tackling security challenges.
  •  Win the confidence of all countries who invest in the UN, whose generous contributions must be put to the best possible use.

Russia’s contribution to the UN

I share Russia’s commitment to the centrality of the UN in addressing international challenges in the complex world of today. We both want to see a United Nations that delivers results effectively and efficiently.

Russia’s views on global peace and security challenges need to be heard and respected. Russia’s global status and its role as Permanent Member of the UN Security Council have made it an essential partner for achieving international peace and security – whether that be in Syria, on countering terrorism in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, and on DPRK.

Russia also has a crucial role to play in regional and global development. This is a challenging time for countries in your region, particularly those in Central Asia, facing the destabilising effects of the narcotics trade; a scarcity of resources, and the potential spill over effects from the rise of radicalism and terrorism in the Middle East.

Russia will play a crucial role in the decision on the appointment of the next UN Secretary-General. I believe I am a candidate that Russia can work with.

I encourage you to stay in touch and follow me on social media - @Helen4SG. And I look forward to taking your questions.

Press meeting



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